Have you ever tried to find a good “how to” article or a good strategy overview written for professional website managers?

I did. And I could find plenty of good stuff aimed at the “I love thinking about the Internet” set or the “I love cutting edge web technology” set. But very little at the “I am running a website group at a real company” set.

Although techie articles and pie-in-the-sky articles have their place, when you need real answers for real problems they just don’t give you what you need. You want actionable answers not down-in-the-dirt details or information about macro trends on the Internet.

So I set out to make a website that provides actionable answers to the questions that website managers ask on the topics that matter. Topics like:

  • Project Management finding big problems, coming up with solutions and mobilizing the teams to get the problem solved
  • Content Management slicing and dicing through requests for new web pages, getting the pieces together and getting it live without hiring a legion of web producers
  • Internet Marketing getting the folks to the site, getting them on the list, and then getting them through the funnel to sales or a shopping cart
  • Web Development developing the technology that makes it all possible

And while those are pretty big topics, they are the topics you deal with every day when you run a big-ish website. And if you hang with me, I am going to spill the good stuff I learned from doing this stuff myself.

The next question you are thinking is… who is this guy?

From a blob-ulous task to a SMART objective

And more email rolls in. One looks interesting. Your co-worker, who is the internal customer for all your Internet marketing efforts, has sent you an email with the title “my campaign in broken.” All the email says is “Can you fix my latest marketing campaign? It’s not working very well”

“What sort of a task is that?” you ask yourself. There isn’t an objective to it. At least not that you can measure. Who knows if you can realistically fix it. And there isn’t a “I need this by” date either. Yep. It’s just another blob-ulous task.

It is clear that you need to turn the current blob-ulous task your customer handed you into something that you can execute on. You don’t really want a task. You want to know what result they want to obtain, what product they want produced or what service they want performed - you want an objective. So how do we go from the blob-ulous task we have now to a well-formed objective?

The answer is SMART. No, not "smart" as in "intelligent". SMART as in the SMART technique of defining objectives developed by Peter Drucker over 50 years ago. Using this long-standing technique assures your objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based so that you can execute against them. And at the end of your efforts it will be very, very clear if you completed the objective or you didn’t. It’s a perfect technique to use for any objective you set out to achieve - be it a result, product or service.

The SMART technique is so powerful that once you start “thinking SMART” you end up more effective. You don’t get bogus tasks assigned because you spot them when they try to slide them in. All tasks that are turned into objectives using the SMART technique, assuming you apply the method correctly, are good ones.

And applying the technique is simple. Just get your task and make sure it is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Once you SMART-ify the task, it isn’t a task any more. It’s an objective. Let’s review each element of the SMART technique in detail so you can master this powerful technique.

Specific – All objectives should use exacting language. They should not be vague. In our example above, “fix” is vague and so is the phrase, “not working well.” Something like “the copy on the ‘10% off followup’ campaign trafficked out 8.8.2008 is incorrect” would be more effective. Bottom line: If everyone involved can understand the objective then it’s specific enough.

Measurable – Not all objectives have to be measurable using a number. Commonly, an objective has been done or it hasn’t. Like “paint the outside of the fence with white paint” - either you have it done or you haven’t. But if objective contains words like “good” or “small” or “best” then it isn’t measurable and it should be. Making an objective measurable means that you need to use numbers instead of adjectives. As an example, there is almost no measurability in the objective “decrease customer calls to a low level” but “decrease customer calls into the call center by 10%” is very measurable.

Attainable – We have all seen objectives that were completely impossible. To make sure an objective is possible and attainable find out if others have done something like it. And also make sure that the team meeting the objective has proper resources and the project manager has authority to address the objective. Asking everyone involved “is this objective attainable?” goes along way towards making sure it is.

Relevant – For an objective to be relevant it has to be both urgent and important. It has to be next logical thing to do based on the issues, challenges and opportunities in your work environment. If your objective isn’t urgent and important, then it’s very hard to make a case for doing it.

Time based – All objectives should be time based. And most objectives are. But sometimes an objective doesn’t explicitly say when it needs to be done. Just include a due date in the objective and this one is all buttoned up.

So it’s pretty easy to see how the SMART technique can help you end up with good objectives. Just make sure all of your objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time based and you end up turning blob-ulous tasks into well-formed objectives. In other words, apply the SMART technique and you end up smarter. As in more intelligent. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Drucker’s SMART Resources

An article tying the SMART objective process with it’s intended use – Management by objective (MBO)

Good overview of SMART on 12manage.com

I really like the Wikipedia overview of SMART – especially the part about all the different words can work in the SMART acronym.